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Loss, Healing, Forgiveness, and Finding Peace

Forgiveness is a gift to ourselves.

Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels
Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

Recently, a close relative of mine died. This person lived a self-centered life in which they caused a great deal of pain to those around them. In the ultimate act of self-centeredness, and after 50 years of marriage, this person chose not to be buried next to their spouse (who is still alive), who took care of them in their final days, months, and years of a terminal illness. Unconscionable? Perhaps. Unforgivable? Maybe.

Loss and Emotional Healing

Loss, healing, and forgiveness is by no means a linear process. Grieving comes in waves and riding those waves through the pain is part of this journey. Forgiveness can be like that, too.

My personal healing process means allowing myself to feel the feelings, trying to have compassion for each person’s internal struggles, and moving toward healing and forgiveness whenever possible. In the case of my relative discussed above, it is a long journey.

One of the biggest mistakes people make during the loss process is assuming that we cry for a few days and then we’re all good. It doesn’t work that way. People are complicated, relationships are complicated, and therefore our healing process is complicated. None of us is perfect and we all have our faults. I know I certainly have mine, but continually working on myself is a goal and path I’ve chosen.

Liza Summer/Pexels
Liza Summer/Pexels

I think learning to see our family of origin as human beings with faults is part of this process. Our relatives and parents had their own struggles in their childhoods; their experiences carried through to adulthood to help shape who they became, both the good and the not-so-good. For their generation, counseling and psychotherapy may not have been as common. Getting counseling may also have been perceived as weakness, when in reality, seeking help for our emotional challenges takes a certain amount of strength and courage. Attempting to have compassion for what our relatives and parents experienced in their childhoods and in their lives is part of our own emotional healing process.

But it’s not easy. I’m not going to lie to you. When we’re in the midst of our emotional stuff, compassion can be the furthest thing from our minds.


Sometimes forgiveness takes many years, sometimes a lifetime, and sometimes it never happens. The goal, in many cases, is to attempt to forgive the person while not forgiving their behavior. There are simply some situations when behavior is unforgiveable. What do we do with that, emotionally? Where do we go with that on our healing path? That’s a personal question that only you can answer for yourself.

Forgiveness is about self-healing; it’s about not allowing the anger and pain to eat us up inside. Ride through the emotions and you may be able to give this gift of forgiveness—not necessarily for the benefit of the other person, but to help you in your own healing and peace, giving this gift to yourself.

Maybe forgiveness is a possibility for you right now, but maybe it’s not. That’s ok. You are where you are in the healing process. It’s your process and no one can try to force a timeline on it.

In between the grieving and healing waves, though, the compassion for the inner suffering and pain of our family-of-origin can seep in. Even if it’s just a little bit, it might help with your own grieving and healing process.


Feel the feelings. Get the emotional support and help you need—from trusted loved ones and counselors. Have compassion for the ones who’ve hurt you, but don’t use it as an excuse to bury your feelings. Don’t give up on the healing process. I believe in you.

To find a therapist near you, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.

More from Tamara Goldsby Ph.D.
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